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Illinois (13-6) at (17) Ohio State (15-4)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 23, 7 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Value City Arena (18,809) -- Columbus, Ohio. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UI 9-2, OSU 12-1. Away Record: UI 1-3, OSU 2-3. Neutral Record: UI 3-1, OSU 1-0. Conference Record: UI 2-4, OSU 2-4. Series Record: Illinois leads, 101-66.

GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling Big Ten Conference foes get together on Thursday night, as the Illinois Fighting Illini come calling on the 17th- ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Both teams are mired in four-game losing streaks, and they are separated by only two games with regard to their overall records.

Illinois comes in at 13-6 (2-4 in conference), and the team has dropped recent decisions to league rivals Wisconsin, Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan State, the last two coming at home. The Illini are just 1-3 in true road games, having lost their last three on enemy hardwood.

Ohio State began the season at 15-0, but the squad has fallen on hard times of late, losing to Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and most shockingly, Nebraska. The 68-62 setback to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on Monday night, dropped the Buckeyes' record on the road to 2-3. The knock on Thad Matta's team heading into conference play was that it hadn't faced much in the way of top-flight competition, an opinion that apparently has some merit considering the Buckeyes recent troubles.

Illinois owns a 101-66 advantage in the all-time series with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have won 12 of the 17 meetings between the two since Matta took over to start the 2004-05 campaign.

The two teams will meet again in Champaign on Feb. 15.

Poor shooting and a relaxed defensive approach did the Illini in last Saturday against visiting Michigan State, as the team connected on only 37.7 percent of its field goal attempts, while allowing the Spartans 55.8 percent success on theirs. Tracy Abrams led the way for Illinois with 15 points, while Jon Ekey and Rayvonte Rice chipped in with 12 points apiece. MSU nearly doubled UI in points in the paint (38-20), while easily winning the rebounding battle by a 38-25 margin.

Rice continues to pace the Illini in the scoring column with his 17.4 ppg, and he leads the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (23) as well. Abrams (12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg) and Joseph Bertrand (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for Illinois, which generates 69.3 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .416 overall and .311 from 3-point range, while at the same time allowing the opposition to hit 41.3 percent of its total shots, which includes a 34.0 percent showing from beyond the arc, on its way to only 63.7 ppg.

Ohio State too put forth a dismal shooting effort in the recent loss to Nebraska, converting a mere 39.6 percent of its field goal attempts, including only 6-of-21 tries from 3-point land. In contrast, the Cornhuskers made good on 50 percent of their total shots, despite missing the mark on 11 of their 13 long-range launches. Nebraska turned the ball over 17 times, but used a 20-14 edge in points from the foul line, coupled with a 33-27 advantage on the glass to pull off the upset. Aaron Craft paced the Buckeyes with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. both went just 4-of-12 from the floor to tally 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Ross and Smith, Jr. are OSU's only double-digit scorers on the season, the duo combining for 25.8 ppg. The Buckeyes rely much more on contributions from multiple players, as five others net between 6.7 and 9.2 ppg. As a team, Ohio State is putting up 73.3 ppg, doing so on typical shooting efforts of .459 overall and .340 from beyond the arc. Where the team really earns its merit is on defense, as opponents are permitted just 58.5 ppg on the strength of a 39.2 percent shooting performance, which includes a dismal 26.1 percent showing from downtown. Add to that more than 15 turnovers per game, and it's not hard to see why so many foes have fallen by the wayside this season.

Ohio State hasn't performed up to its usual standard in the last couple of weeks, and it's Matta's job to get his guys re-focused on once again becoming one of the elite teams in not only the Big Ten, but the country as well. Easier said than done, especially when you have quality teams looking to take you down. In this particular case however, expect the Buckeyes to get back on track, as the hometown faithful provides the extra motivation they'll need to get past the Illini.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 69, Illinois 65

01/23 10:17:22 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
PHI 91
CHA 109
Final
PHI 91
CHA 109
Final
ORL 94
UTA 101
Final
CLE 95
BRK 91
Final
BOS 114
MIN 98
Final
DET 100
TOR 110
Final
MIA 103
WAS 105
Final
MEM 97
CHI 103
 
1st OT
SAN 104
POR 99
 
3rd
DEN 64
LAC 67
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
OKC
Final
YOUNG 92
WILB 71
 
Final
TULA 56
JST 49
 
Final
RAD 76
SIENA 66
 
Final
BUCK 88
CASEWEST 65
 
Final
LIB 94
CPNC 65
 
Final
SCAR 68
CLEM 45
Final
CMICH 97
CONC 60
 
Final
MIAMI 44
EKENT 72
Final
GWEBB 91
HIWASSEE 71
 
Final
ODU 60
MDES 43
 
Final
BUF 88
NIAG 62
 
Final
KSU 71
NCAT 57
 
Final
FAM 65
UNF 83
 
Final
NORST 81
NARZ 62
 
Final
DART 58
NILL 55
 
Final
MORE 60
NKENTUCKY 83
 
Final
UCSB 69
SDCHR 46
 
Final
STJ 53
GAELS 47
Final
ALA 69
STILL 49
 
Final
HAMP 66
TENST 54
 
Final
TENN 61
TENT 58
Final
WMARY 86
WSHMD 46
 
Final
MERC 67
COOK 46
 
Final
FLGC 83
FUR 78
 
Final
CALST 49
SDKST 53
 
Final
MTST 68
CHAT 58
 
Final
NDAK 78
DICKINSON 48
 
Final
LAMON 76
LSUALEX 71
 
Final
PRIN 77
LIP 55
 
Final
LAM 80
MLGN 53
 
Final
MINN 92
SEAT 57
 
Final
LOYC 73
SUTAH 57
 
Final
SELA 81
WINT 71
 
Final
SILL 52
NO 56
 
2nd
MARQ 77
ALAAM 42
 
2nd
TTU 53
ARKPB 38
 
2nd
DEN 67
COLST 73
 
2nd
CREI 69
TXPA 51
 
1st
CAL 25
EWASH 24
 
1st
UTST 26
IDST 20
 
11:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ARZ
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
NJD 3
TAM 2
Final
OTT 6
ANA 2
Final
DET 1
NYI 2
Final
WIN 2
BOS 1
2nd Intermission
CAL 1
DAL 2